INDEPENDENT NEWS

Spectrum Sale To Maori Not Illegal

Published: Wed 13 Dec 2000 12:51 AM
Office Of The Race Relations Conciliator
The Race Relations Conciliator today released the Opinion, formed by the full Human Rights Commission, that the Government did not breach the race provisions of the Human Rights Act by reserving one of the four blocks of the third generation radio spectrum for a pan-Maori Trust.
Mr Maurice Williamson MP and five others had complained to the Race Relations Conciliator that the sale breached the race provisions of the Human Rights Act. The complainants had asked the Conciliator to undertake a formal investigation of the decision, which they believed advantaged one group of people by virtue of their race.
Dr Prasad said today that the Government, in its submissions, explained that its decision to sell one of the four blocks to Maori only was its response to the under-representation of Maori in the knowledge economy.
Dr Prasad said: “The law permits discrimination under certain conditions. If a group of people, such as the disabled, women, single parents, the unemployed or a particular ethnic group needs special assistance for advancing to a level broadly similar to other groups in the community, then such measures are allowed under the Human Rights Act”.
“Evidence was presented to show that Maori are under-represented in tertiary education in those areas which are related to the knowledge economy, technology and telecommunications. These include engineering, architecture, town planning, science, commerce, business, medicine, law, agriculture and horticulture,” said Dr Prasad.
“Data was also produced to show that Maori lag behind significantly in employment in knowledge-based industries. These include scientific research, technical services, computer services, libraries, electronic equipment manufacturing, telecommunication services, film and video services and television services,” said Dr Prasad.
“Providers of a public service who intend addressing those who need assistance or advancement in order to achieve an equal place with others in the community, are protected even though their actions would otherwise constitute non-compliance with the race provisions of the Human Rights Act.
Dr Prasad said: “The Government, in this case, had acted in good faith, and there was clear evidence of Maori under-representation in the knowledge economy. Furthermore, it had carefully set up a mechanism, the Maori Spectrum Charitable Trust, to address the needs of an under-represented group, Maori, to reach equality with others in the knowledge economy, technology and telecommunications areas”.
“The Trust is charged with increasing the participation of Maori in the knowledge economy by promoting training, skills development, educational opportunities and research activities. It is also required to facilitate access to business mentors and other learning experiences,” added Dr Prasad
“The real merits of this mechanism to address under-representation are that it is a thoughtful response to a real issue, it has built-in checks and balances, it has been convincingly explained, it will be monitored and it will cease when it is no longer necessary,” said Dr Prasad.
For further information contact Rajen Prasad, Race Relations Conciliator on (09) 307 2352 or 021 444 177.

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